12 Dec 2023 | Amateur golf |

Croker learning off the best at Sandbelt Invitational

by Jimmy Emanuel

Quinn Croker
Queensland's Quinn Croker during day one of the 2023 Sandbelt Invitational

As always, the smile couldn’t be wiped from Quinn Croker’s face as he made his way around Victoria Golf Club on Monday following a downpour that would have rendered most courses unplayable.

After a herculean effort from Steven Newell and his ground staff, play for the opening day of Sandbelt Invitational got underway, albeit a few hours later than planned, with Croker heading out for his tournament debut alongside host Geoff Ogilvy.

Admitting his usual talkative nature was perhaps slightly curbed early in the round, Croker could later be seen bending the ear of the 2006 US Open champion. Even if he has no memory of Ogilvy’s heroics at Winged Foot, or that the former world No.3 crafted his major winning game around the very same 18 holes.

“It was very special,” Croker surmised the experience.

“I didn’t realise it was his home course, or where he’s from, until he told me he had been here for 32 years or something walking down the last hole. Learnt plenty, I asked him plenty of questions.”

Those questions, and indeed the answers, part of the ongoing golfing education for the Canberra-born Queenslander who has impressed over the summer with four top-15 finishes on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia.

Seemingly owning an insatiable thirst for knowledge as he plans his career in golf, Croker, who worked both on the greens staff and as caddie for Jack Thompson at the recent Australian PGA, walked away from his time with Ogilvy with plenty to chew on as he and coach Chris Gibson plan an American experience in 2024.

“About the amateur stuff, and turning pro, and all that kind of stuff. He’s obviously got so much knowledge, but pretty much the main takeaway whenever he spoke about whatever it was to do with golf, was play more, play competitively as often as you can,” Croker said of the Ogilvy experience.

That competitive spirit was on display despite the relaxed atmosphere of the event that will visit Peninsula Kingswood, Yarra Yarra and The Royal Melbourne Golf Club over the coming days, with Croker surprised at the distance Ogilvy still produces despite being some 27 years his senior, while being a little chuffed with his own 2-under-par round.

“Obviously to play some pretty solid golf, is a positive, on any given day, no matter who you are playing with. To have a playing partner like Geoff, then go out there and play some pretty solid golf, it’s made for quite an enjoyable day,” he said.

Speaking recently with John Senden, who mirrored Ogilvy’s comments about the magnificent improvement and insight offerings playing in Europe while starting a career, Croker, a member of Golf Australia’s High Performance squad, will have another chance to expand his growing golf brain Tuesday, when he tees up alongside Ryder Cup hero Nicolas Colsaerts.

The Belgian is likely to endorse one of the 19-year-old’s main takeaways from Monday.

“Work as hard as you can as an amateur, get as good as you can, and then once you turn pro, the real work starts,” Croker said.

Colsaerts is a similarly willing educator, who still has a competitive fire burning and will perhaps follow Marcus Fraser’s example of playing alongside 11-year-old Fuyu Yang on Monday.

“I think that’s what the event is all about … absolutely we want to try and win it, but there’s a lot of good young kids out there that we get to witness and being an old prick, we get to try and pass on some of the things,” Fraser said.

The three-time DP World Tour winner adding “I had a three footer on the last, and I said ‘Don’t you dare miss this, you idiot’” when asked if despite trying to help Yang around Victoria the grinder in him came out toward the end of the round.

Croker is likely to feel similarly if he manages to take what he learns into contention come Thursday afternoon.

“I think you might start to feel something coming down the last couple of holes in contention in round four. But I think the way that the event is setup is so good for us amateurs to mingle with some of the best pros in the world.”

Mingle, and of course learn.

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